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Saturday, 19 September 2020

A52 Clifton Bridge: Pictures | All you need to know about the repair work taking place – but no timescales for completion yet

Five challenges being tackled by Highways England repair teams at A52 Clifton Bridge

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With Highways England carrying out essential concrete and steel repairs on the A52 Clifton Bridge heading eastbound as you leave Nottingham, here are five things you didn’t know about the on-going maintenance work to keep this busy route safe for years to come.

1). Flying ‘bullets’. This structure was built in the 1970s. To repair damaged concrete, we use a technique called hydro-demolition. This is the safest way to remove affected concrete without causing further damage to the steel which has corroded. To do this, repair teams working on the project must wear specialist bodysuits because the concrete breaks off as fast a bullet. The pressure from the equipment is so intense those operating it must lean at a 45-degree angle to ensure they don’t get knocked off their feet. And as well as wearing the protective suits, those operating the equipment need to drink plenty of water to ensure they don’t get dehydrated during the work. This is due to the work being incredibly hot and steamy inside the bridge itself.

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An example of the body protection worn during a hydro-demolition process. The hydro-demolition suit is thick enough to prevent injury from flying concrete that travels faster than bullets.

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2). ‘Box’ clever. The repairs to the steel are taking place within the bowels of the structure. This means that specialists must work in confined spaces, meticulously working through the many chambers that are located within the hollow beams high above the ground to carry out an investigation and painstaking repair work. This task is difficult because there is limited light and access points and with the heat and humidity it is more akin to working in a deep mine. It is, therefore, no coincidence that we have a fully equipped, trained and competent mines rescue team on-site ready to assist in the unlikely event of an incident.

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The damaged steel underneath the road in a hollow part of the structure which specialists have been inspecting.

With the challenges that the access issues present, it’s also incredibly important that effective and efficient planning takes place to make sure the process of getting material in to repair the affected area is seamless. And don’t forget, after the concrete has been subject to the demolition process, in its waste form along with the water that was used in the process, it has to be removed from the chamber and subsequently taken away from site to an approved disposal facility.

3) Head for heights. This structure is elevated above the ground. Unlike other roads, teams must be fitted with appropriate safety harnesses and equipment to carry out investigation work. Engineers have been creating working platforms underneath the road so that they can carry out inspections, all of which are unseen to passing motorists or members of the public.

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Working at height requires special platforms for teams to access the repair area.

4). Managing traffic flows. With thousands of vehicles needing to use the road, the urgency to get it back open has been paramount to Highways England. That said, we need to make sure we can prevent furthermore disruptive damage to the affected area and that is why we took proactive steps to close the road. We also have engineers working on and under the structure and we must make sure that we don’t cause them injury from passing vehicles. We have installed a specialist barrier designed to keep traffic on a part of the bridge while also protecting our engineers while they work in a ‘safe’ zone from passing vehicles. To alleviate congestion, Highways England has stepped up its traffic officer patrol service in the area to help motorists and is also working closely with the emergency services to ensure medical and emergency access can be maintained. Free recovery is also in place for vehicles travelling in the area while the restrictions remain in place.

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A new safety barrier has been installed on the A52 Clifton Bridge to keep repair teams safe from passing vehicles.

5). When you go to bed, we go to work. The bridge itself is subject to regular maintenance programmes and most of these take place overnight while the road is at its quietest. This means that quite often, our hidden army of repair teams will go in and work while the rest of us sleep without people even knowing we’ve been on-site. We don’t close lanes or roads to annoy people. We do it to keep people safe – those working on and underneath the road and those travelling on the bridge itself.

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The majority of concrete repairs have been taking place at night while the road is at its quietest.

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The bridge is elevated high above the ground.

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